Eastern Conference action on Thursday night as the Detroit Red Wings head up to le Centre Bell to take on the Montreal Canadiens. Detroit was expected to struggle this season as the team continued rebuilding mode under head coach Jeff Blashill. Instead, they’ve been a very pleasant surprise and enter this contest at 2-1. They won their first two games of the year at Nashville and home against Dallas before losing on Tuesday night to another surprise team, the Anaheim Ducks.
Montreal is 1-1 on the season with both decisions coming in a shootout. They lost to Carolina in their opening game 4-3 but rebounded to beat arch rival Montreal 6-5. They’re off a game with the Buffalo Sabres last night before they return home for their Centre Bell season debut against the Wings. Thursday’s game will be the first of four home games for les Canadiens de Montréal as they look forward to a pair of tough contests against St. Louis and Tampa Bay followed by a game against the Minnesota Wild.
It’s really tough to get a handle on where Montreal is at after two games. To some degree, this can be said about every NHL team but it’s especially so about the Canadiens. They showed some toughness coming back from a 2-0 hole in Carolina but blew a 3-2 lead that they had heading into the third period. They battled back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period at Toronto to score four unanswered goals but were unable to hold a 5-4 late game lead. They did end up winning the game in a shootout. Carey Price hasn’t looked particularly sharp so far allowing 8 goals in two games. It’s not all Price’s fault, however, as the Habs defense has given up 40 shots per game which is the most in the league in the early going. And as if things couldn’t get more confusing they’re giving up and scoring an average of 4 goals per game.
Both teams have what will likely be perceived as a ‘bigger game’ on deck. Detroit returns home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night while the Habs welcome the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues to town on Saturday. Montreal will be in the second of back to back games facing a rested Detroit team and that could be advantageous to the Red Wings. Not that Detroit has needed much help with Montreal in recent years. The Red Wings have won 8 straight against Montreal including 4 straight at the Bell Center. Keep in mind that the Wings have generally struggled in recent years. Last season, Detroit swept the season series winning all four games by a combined margin of 21-8. 6 of these 8 games and 3 of 4 in Montreal have gone ‘Over’ the total. With the Habs giving up a ton of shots and Price not looking at the top of his game these trends are likely to continue.